“My mom’s from Guyana and my dad is British, and I was born and raised in London. My parents are both actors and led this wonderful bohemian lifestyle. I used to go and see all their plays, and I was just head over heels with the whole world of it. I always wanted to act, but my parents thought I should have a degree. And then if I still wanted to act, I could—that was the compromise. What always excited me about acting, and also why I think I got my degree in anthropology and archaeology, is the diversity of humans. Ways of being, ways of life, ways of achieving the same three goals of happiness, reproduction, and contentment. Through exploring those diversities, I can give people the opportunity to feel like they’ve gotten to know someone they wouldn’t actually know in their real life. At Oxford, I directed and acted in this play called For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. The conversations we were having after the performance, and the ways people were reacting to it, definitely made it the turning point for me. I just remember thinking ‘This is it.’ I love the power of acting to instigate change. That’s how I view it.
My mom and her mom have naturally flawless skin, and their version of skincare is just putting Vaseline on their faces. As I came into acting after university, I was wearing heavy makeup on a daily basis. I really needed to catch up with my skincare knowledge, because I didn’t have that kind of flawless skin—if I didn’t take really good care of my face, it would react or become clogged. Now, I mainly use this brand I found when I was filming in South Africa called Dermafix. They’re not huge outside of South Africa, but they’re environmentally conscious, don’t do animal testing, and the conversion rate makes them reasonably priced. I use their Brightening Cleanser, and when I’m filming, once a week I’ll mix a bit of baking soda in with it. My aesthetician told me to do it, and it really helps get any stray stuff out of my pores. Sometimes I’ll leave it on as a mask for a few minutes, or if I don’t have enough time I’ll just wash it off immediately. So simple and cheap. Every time I get a pimple, I get hyperpigmentation for about six months to a year after. Dermafix’s vitamin C serum really helps with my surface spots. Then I use their Bio-Hydrating Cream and their sunscreen—I do all of those things in the morning, and everything except the sunscreen at night.
When I’m on camera, we use RCMA foundation to get that amazing, flawless look. It comes in a palette, and we use three different colors to shade in my face. I tan a lot more on my forehead, so a multicolor thing really helps. I used to wear foundation and powder even when I wasn’t filming, because I was really self-conscious about my uneven skin tone. My aesthetician said the least pore-clogging makeup is mineral powder, and now that’s all I use. The one I use is Honey Dark Pressed Base from Glo Skin Beauty, which is one of a few brands that have a good range for darker skin tones. I put that on every day and it literally makes my pores disappear, like I’ve been airbrushed. And it never breaks me out. It replaces my concealer, too—sometimes I layer it on with my finger over my dark marks to get more coverage. When I do want heavier coverage, I use the Pat McGrath Skin Fetish foundation. I buy two colors, a lighter and a darker, and I’ll use those for my contouring. I also love the Pat McGrath Skin Fetish highlighter, and I go back to the Glo Skin for blush.
For me, lash stuff is always something I get at the drugstore. I know there’s a big controversy about that, but it works. Right now I have the L’Oréal Voluminous Million mascara. I use the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Definer with the slanted tip, and their clear gel as well to hold my brows in place. I have to have something Fenty in my makeup collection, just for my own happiness, and right now it’s the liquid liner. It stays, it really stays. And sometimes with liquid eyeliner you have to be really careful and delicate, but this one goes on so smooth that I can apply it quickly. I normally do a wash of gold shadow on my eyelid, and then in the evening I’ll fade it into a slightly smoky eye. I just ordered a bunch of eye palettes from The Beauty Bakerie, and I’m really excited to try them.
So often when I go on set they straighten my hair, or try to put a more defined curl in. When characters are more refined or more educated, they often lean towards controlling the curls instead of embracing them, which is a real shame. I think we have a really important role in chasing that narrative. To deal with all the heat damage, I do a lot of masks. I like to mix warm olive oil and apple cider vinegar, and I leave it on for three or four hours. That’s a really good reset for my hair. I’ll also put a little bit of olive oil on my scalp if it’s feeling dry. The kitchen has so many things that are good for the hair. I make concoctions with eggs, avocado, mayonnaise, olive oil… They don’t smell good, but they work. I also like to use this gel with castor oil from Cantu to lay my edges, and sometimes I’ll put castor oil in my hair masks as well. I have so much damage in the front from straightening my hair to go into three-quarter wigs. I’ve tried everything to regrow it, and I think castor oil helps.
I texturized my hair for about 10 years to loosen the curl, and about two years ago I decided to go natural. My hair was so unhealthy at that point, and I wanted to see what my natural texture was—my memories of my natural hair were from before I was 16, and I didn’t even know what my adult curl would be like. I cut it all off and started again, and it was such an empowering feeling. My hair is so versatile, and I’ve become so proud of it. I love having big curls, I love being able to pick it out, or blow it out, or play around with braiding, or explore different shapes and styles. I throw it up in a bun a lot. It just does whatever I want it to, which is amazing. I thought having natural hair would be an overwhelming amount of work, but it’s actually less work than before. It’s such a nice feeling after trying to tame it for so much of my life. That eurocentric look was shoved down our throats, and I’m so excited for this resurgence of pride in natural Black hair. Kids growing up now have that to look up to.
My partner’s dad is a hairstylist, and I get my color and my cut done at his salon, Hair Play, in San Francisco. Their tagline is ‘Where hair and culture come together,’ and it really is that. They specialize in curly hair of all kinds, whether you’re Black, or Jewish, or any other ethnicity, and they play great music, and I feel really good going in there. I’d never colored my hair before, and he just gave me these gentle highlights. I love it. He also gave me the one product I use without fail, Set, and it’s this amazing styling foam that’s also a sunscreen and a moisturizer. I shampoo and condition my hair like normal, and while it’s still wet I put a lot of this on. It gives my curls amazing definition without being crispy or crunchy. If I want a reset in the morning, I splash a bit of water on my hair and it reacts to what’s in there. It gets all my flyaways—I highly recommend that one. I always use a microfiber towel. I got mine from Devacurl, but there are all different brands. That combined with sleeping on a satin pillowcase really helps minimize frizz for as long as possible. I tried finger combing my hair for a while, because someone told me it helps frizz too, but I was not getting through my whole head as well as I do with a brush. Maybe I’m too impatient. I have this amazing hair stylist that I use for shoots, and she uses a brush from Felicia Leatherwood. The bottom of it stretches sideways… you have to see it to get what I’m saying. I just ordered that one because she recommended it. And I always use my Mason Pearson brush for general upkeep to smooth it out.
Growing up I only ever took baths—it’s such a British thing, because normally British houses just have baths. I love putting in epsom salts and lavender oil, and lighting some candles. The fig one and Baies from Diptyque are so good. That’s my classic wind-down evening. Nowadays, in LA, I just have a shower. My friend made me this body scrub with brown sugar, lemon, and lavender essence, and it makes my skin so smooth and soft… I really want to get more into making my own products! I never knew how easy it is. In the shower scents are alright, but I always use an unscented body lotion. Vaseline is the best—it’s really thick, and gentle, and it keeps my skin shining nicely. It feels like a treatment, and it’s from the drugstore. When I smell something, it takes me straight back to a person, or a place, so I love using that power. I’ve been wearing Terre d’Hermès every day for five years now. It’s a rich, earthy, woody scent—definitely my signature.”
—as told to ITG
Photos via the author